Marriage is a Marathon

Congratulations! The big day has come and gone. Everyone you love was there. The groom was handsome and the bride beautiful. The reception and honeymoon were just like you dreamed they would be.

Marriage is a Marathon

Now, you’re back home and happily married, and your whole life is stretching out before you. That’s right…your whole life!

God willing, you’re going to be married a long time. But how do you do that?

One day at a time.

And that’s good news, but don’t let that reality lull you into complacency. The days fly by and as they do, you will feel pressure to get everything done in one day. This pressure leads to all kinds of problems. You try to buy too much too fast and you end up with credit problems. You try to do too much too soon—fix up the house, join the club, find new friends—and boom! Suddenly, you’re physically wiped out.

In every race, there’s an internal pressure to run really fast at the beginning of the race. That’s a sure plan to lose. You don’t get a trophy for winning the first 100 yards of a marathon. You have to run the whole race. That takes a little discipline—a little pacing. Every good runner knows how to find their own rhythm in a race.

Good marriages are the same way. They have a good rhythm to them. Each person knows what needs to be done on certain days of the week to keep the relationship running smoothly with all of the distractions the world throws at them.

The fact is you can’t live on love. Life has to be done. The trash has to be taken to the street, groceries have to be brought in from the car, diapers have to be changed, and piano recitals attended. Budgets have to be balanced and checks have to be written. But they don’t have to be done all at the same time, on the same day. You’ll soon find some things fit on Friday and other things fit on other days. Your weeks will find their rhythm.

Has your marriage found its rhythm? Are you and your spouse running at the same pace? If not, that may be something to sit down and talk about this weekend. How’s does a good week flow? What’s the best day to do certain things that need to be done? What about date nights? What about exercise and rest? What about eating together? All of these things, and more, are in a good marriage pace. Sit down with your spouse and find your pace.

Remember, marriage is a marathon, and that’s a long run. Pace your lives accordingly.

In Dating, Camping Rules Apply

If you enjoy camping, you know there’s a very simple rule of the trail—always leave the campsite better than the way you found it. Don’t leave trash around for someone else to pick up. Don’t leave the campsite messy or scattered. Leave it the way you would want to find it if you are hiking and looking for a place to make camp.

In Dating, Camping Rules Apply

There have been a lot of discussions and debates about dating and how poorly we do it in our culture. Teens and young adults feel a lot of pressure about dating. Should you ask out this person or that person? How do you know if the other person is interested? How do you get someone’s attention and not be a jerk about it? These questions have been around forever, and it doesn’t seem social media has made them any easier to figure out.

Let me give you a different way to think about it. For better or worse, dating is how we practice being with members of the opposite sex. Because it’s practice, you shouldn’t take it too seriously. Here’s what I mean by that: most people you date will not be “the ONE.” What’s more, you‘ll know it after being with this person for about 15 minutes.

And that’s OK. But since we seem to have to go through this process, let’s make it work for us. Everyone you date will teach you something. There will be things you like and don’t like. What are those things? What attracted you to this person? What makes you want to leave? These things and more will be important to know as you discern what person God is leading you to spend the rest of your life with. So, take good notes.

And here’s one more thing: leave the person you dated better than they were before they dated you. In dating, camping rules apply. Guys, remember you’re dating someone’s future wife. Ladies, you’re dating someone’s future husband. None of us has the right to use these people, harm them in any way, or cause them to doubt their own self-worth or the goodness of true love.

Too often, dating badly becomes a train wreck of hurt feelings and damaged souls. Christ-followers date differently. We always leave the person better, more sure of who they are as a person, more certain of their worth as a human being, and most importantly, more sure of Christ’s love for them.

Like I said, in dating, camping rules apply. Christ-followers always leave the person better, even when dating doesn’t work out.

It’s All Foreplay

Gary Smalley, the marriage expert and author, says that when it comes to sex, men are like microwave ovens and women are like crockpots. Just push a few buttons, he said, and men are ready to go. Women, on the other hand, take a long time to warm up.

It’s All Foreplay

This has left most husbands in a frustrating dilemma. We really don’t know what to do. As a result, too many of us guys have been taken in by the stacks and stacks of magazines with articles promising fantastic sex if we only do this or that. These things never work because they’re not written by our wives. Our wives are unique, and there’s no sexual template that works the same for everybody.

So, as a marriage veteran for over 35 years and a man who’s crazy in love with his wife, here’s the little secret I’ve discovered.

It’s all foreplay.

Our wives are incredible women who have a lot going on in their lives. The stuff going on in her life doesn’t stop simply because she’s walked into the bedroom. If she works outside of the home, she’s still thinking about the meetings and projects or her job. If she’s a mother, she’s thinking about the kids. If there’s anything else going on, she’s thinking about that too.

And yeah, dude, she’s thinking about you…somewhere in all of that. Now, if you demand attention or if you pout because you’re not getting your way, you become just one more person who needs something from her. On some days, she can’t tell the difference between her whining toddler grabbing at her and you.

How do we change this?

We start by changing our thinking. We begin by understanding that every part of the day is connected to our expressions of intimacy.

Here’s what I mean by that. You can’t talk to her one way in the kitchen and another way in the bedroom. She can’t (and shouldn’t) separate the two. So, if you want her to respond to you in the bedroom, you have to respond to her in the kitchen. That means taking the garbage out before you go to bed is sexy. That means paying the bills and taking care of the finances is sexy. That means helping put the kids down at night is sexy. That means holding her hand while you watch the kids at soccer practice is sexy.

For one thing, you don’t ever want her to forget that first and foremost, she’s your wife. More than being a wage earner, a good mother to the kids, housekeeper, etc., she is still most of all your wife.

And second, you want your wife’s mind and heart free from all distractions so she can fully concentrate…

…on you! Her husband!

Don’t you remember? There was a time when it was enough for the two of you just to be together. There was a time when you couldn’t get enough of each other. Remember? We all felt that way once, before life happened to us.

As husbands, we want to recreate that moment for our wives. No, we can’t hold that moment forever. Life is calling. But we can hold on to it for a few minutes. And that’s foreplay. Foreplay is creating the space where she’s free to respond to you as her husband.

Making things. It’s what guys do. So, make this: a space where her heart and mind has nothing to think about but you.

Like I said, it’s all foreplay.

Returning the Mystery to Your Marriage [Podcast]

Today’s podcast is an excerpt of a sermon I recently preached from Ephesians 5. When we talk about the issue of marriage, let’s confess that we as the church of Jesus Christ have surrendered the biblical understanding of marriage to a romanticized fantasy that is perpetuated by our culture. The first place that biblical marriage has to be restored is in the church. We can’t continue to do cute weddings anymore. We must hold weddings, and encourage marriages that are committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Returning the Mystery to Your Marriage [Podcast]